The Drosophila Delta (Dl) gene is essential for cell-cell communication regulating the determination of various cell fates during development. Dl encodes a transmembrane protein, which contains tandem arrays of epidermal-growth-factor-like repeats in the extracellular domain and directly interacts with Notch, another transmembrane protein with similar structural features, in a ligand-receptor-like manner. Similarly, cell-cell interactions involving Delta-like and Notch-like proteins are required for cell fate determinations in C. elegans. Notch homologues were also isolated from several vertebrate species, suggesting that cell-to-cell signaling mediated by Delta- and Notch-like proteins could also underlie cell fate determination during vertebrate development. However, in vertebrates, no Delta homologues have yet been described. We have isolated a novel mouse gene, Dll1 (delta-like gene 1), which maps to the mouse t-complex and whose deduced amino acid sequence strongly suggests that Dll1 represents a mammalian gene closely related to Drosophila Delta. Dll1 is transiently expressed during gastrulation and early organogenesis, and in a tissue-restricted manner in adult animals. Between day 7 and 12.5 of development, expression was detected in the paraxial mesoderm, closely correlated with somitogenesis, and in subsets of cells in the nervous system. In adult animals, transcripts were detected in lung and heart. Dll1 expression in the paraxial mesoderm and nervous system is strikingly similar to the expression of mouse Notch1 during gastrulation and early organogenesis. The overlapping expression patterns of the Dll1 and Notch1 genes suggest that cells in these tissues can communicate by interaction of the Dll1 and Notch1 proteins. Our results support the idea that Delta- and Notch-like proteins are involved in cell-to-cell communication in mammalian embryos and suggest a role for these proteins in cellular interactions underlying somitogenesis and development of the nervous system.